Francis Thompson: In His Paths, a Visit to Persons and Places Associated with the Poet

Francis Thompson: In His Paths, a Visit to Persons and Places Associated with the Poet

Francis Thompson: In His Paths, a Visit to Persons and Places Associated with the Poet

Francis Thompson: In His Paths, a Visit to Persons and Places Associated with the Poet

Excerpt

Francis Thompson, to speak boldly, is the Augustine of English Song, though his early experiences were not of the same nature nor of a similar gravity. Perhaps no poet, after Dante, so sums up in his individual experience the full gamut of all there is in man. His spirit knocked at heaven's gate, while his frail body bore the marks of desolate years and bitter days, spent close by the dark pools of human misery in the dreary slums of London.

Francis Thompson is more than a name. He is an inspiration.

If Shakespeare probes our human nature as no other English poet can, Thompson lifts us up and turns our faces Godward. Shakespeare created his own imagined world of human beings, the evil mingled with the good, but Thompson shows us what is finest in man and woman, and how from the depths we can mount to the stars.

Then, too, Thompson's approach to nature is all but infinitely above the wavering vision of Wordsworth. There is about it, something Teresian, something Ignatian, something, we may say, strictly Pauline that is matched, too, by the Pauline vigor and subtlety and Franciscan simplicity with which he pursues his thoughts. Nature is for him the veil through which we catch, however darkly, authentic glimpses of the Infinite.

No wonder, then, that after the ages of Revolt; after the fustian period of what has been called Enlightenment; and finally after the boasted Liberation of man from reason as well as from God, the souls of men could not at once be attuned to his song! And yet, frustrated in their inmost being by the Dead Sea fruits that had turned to ashes on their lips, they could not fail to be ultimately captured by the . . .

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